In cities all over America, old ways of doing business are giving way to new attitudes--and Amarillo, Texas, is no exception. This city of 200,000 has long been known as an oil and ranching town, but that perception has been changing of late, as young entrepreneurs make their mark on the region.
Bahareh Ritter is one such upstart, a creative dynamo who generates income from multiple sources at once. Ritter is a photographer and photo-booth owner who also runs an Airbnb out of her house. And if that weren't enough, she and her husband host popular house concerts in their backyard.
As a successful freelance photographer, Bahareh has found a supportive and vibrant community out on the open plains. "Amarillo feels like you're living in the late 70s," she says, "with its push toward enlightenment around marginalized people and cultural diversity. In this city, any business can pop up and people will run to see what it's about; it's a city hungry for more. And a fantastic place to start a business."
Ritter's newest endeavor, Sidecar Photo Booth Co., perfectly represents the type of exciting entrepreneurial energy being injected into this community. With its open-air design, minimalist approach and sleek look, Ritter's mobile photo-booth operation fits perfectly on the High Plains, where people tend to avoid cramped spaces. "We won't be those people to trigger your claustrophobia," quips Ritter, who has taken the photo booth to many of the pop-up events that have come to characterize the city's spirited social scene.
In fact, through hosting house concerts featuring traveling acts from around the world, Ritter herself has become something of a doyenne of the Amarillo social scene. "Our city is what you see in our backyard, at our concerts," she explains. "Our community is vast, and we welcome everyone. The worst thing we can ever do is turn our back on people. She adds: "Creating an inclusive environment makes my heart happy."
Jenny Inzerillo, host of "High Plains Morning," an eclectic music show on High Plains Public Radio, agrees that Ritter is providing something special with her backyard concerts. "You throw down a blanket, meet a bunch of strangers, pet other people's dogs, share snacks with random couples in camp chairs, and watch bands play as the sun goes down. It's the ultimate community concert experience."
Bahareh and her husband Jacob believe they've found their forever home in Amarillo, where the endless prairie sky is the limit when it comes to financial and artistic possibility. "There's a ton of money being invested in people who start businesses here," says Ritter. "There's the WT Enterprise Center, which helps get businesses off the ground. You can really thrive here--there's a crazy amount of talent in this area. Some of the best I've seen. This city is a hidden gem."